When the Chief of Financial Affairs rushed into the banquet of his colleague with a ghastly pale face, the party was already in full swing.
One of his colleagues, who had already started drinking heartily, ushers in the chief while holding a cup.
“You’re late. Oh well, how about having a drink first?”, someone said, offering a drink
The chief cold-heartedly denied the offered alcohol. The man, who certainly didn’t expect to receive such a harsh treatment, ends up dumbfounded rather than enraged.
After glaring at the banquet with its dampened mood, obviously treating all of it with contempt, the chief inquired with a heavy voice,
“Be honest with me. Is there anyone who embezzled wheat among you?”
Upon his question, several of the attendees showed awkward expressions and averted their gazes. Discovering them with his sharp sight, the chief becomes exasperated.
“So it’s you guys!? Didn’t we decide that wheat falls into my jurisdiction!?”
“Don’t be so angry. I had some slightly unexpected expenses, so I just borrowed some, okay? I will return it right away.”
“Yeah, we are of equal status in this, aren’t we?”
Due to his colleagues showing menial smiles, the chief’s face first became bright red in rage, and then slowly drained of color, turning pale.
That’s because he couldn’t talk back.
Once he thinks back, it was only at the beginning that he had paid attention so that the embezzlement wouldn’t get exposed. Even the feeling of tension went away as time went on, due to Vulitas having absolutely no interest in governmental affairs as long as he was presented with alcohol and women. He even made a move on the taxes under the control of others with the excuse that it’s fine if he’s the only one doing it.
The chief, whose complexion transformed as if the pigments had been repainted, at last lost all strength in his legs and slumped down on the spot.
It’s at that moment that his colleagues realized the gravity of the situation, becoming noisy.
“Just what the hell is wrong?”
The chief answers that question by whispering,
“…It’s been exposed.”
Being asked that by parroting his words, the chief roared,
“Yes! It has been found out! That new lord has noticed that we are misappropriating taxes!”
The chief went on spilling the events up until now in one go. Once he spit out everything, a simmering anger wells up within the chief’s chest.
“Fuck! I completely pushed all of it on that Vulitas bastard and yet you retards had to do whatever you like! Thanks to you! Thanks to you idiots!”
Finally grasping the situation, his colleagues’ faces immediately turned white as well.
“He saw the account book just this morning, right? So how was the embezzlement leaked already?”
“As if I’d know! It seems that the new lord saw through the embezzlement with one glance!”
“W-With one glance…!?”
“Right! Without even using a calculation board, he quickly discovered the embezzlement with one look!”
Upon the chief’s angry yelling, the banquet quickly became deadly silent.
For a while the government officials silently looked at each other, but before long one of them timidly suggests,
“B-But, won’t it be fine to just insist on the calculation being wrong by chance? Look, as for the missing share, if all of us were to insist that the beasts rummaged through the storehouses on their own accord…”
An atmosphere of relief spreads among the officials as they say “That’s it.”
However, even that hope was blown away by the comment of one person.
“Maybe…he knew from the very start?”
That guess was completely wrong.
However, in their eyes, that was much more likely than him having discovered the embezzlement instantly after seeing the records for the first time.
“He was aware of it? But, to bring it up at this point…”
“Come to think of it—”
That official cleared his throat once loudly and swallowed down his spit.
“—when he gathered us in the beginning, he said 『Fraud isn’t permitted』. When he said that, he meant right now…”
Thereupon the officials immediately sobered up from their drunkenness.
“Then, threatening us that he will cut off our heads was about this matter?”
“But, tell us, how was our fraud exposed?”
“If I remember correctly, that brat is the Divine Son of the Goddess of Death and Destruction or something like that…”
“Don’t tell me! With his powers as divine child…?”
Panic travels through the noisy atmosphere.
“I hear that he scattered the army led by that Darius with an odd power…”
“It ain’t only that. I hear that General Darius is close to death due to a terrible curse after having been confined to his mansion…”
Speculations invite even more speculations. Without anyone realizing, even absurd gossip starts to appear. The officials didn’t notice that they had already started to create their own truth without looking for the reason why their fraud had been exposed.
Eventually one of them stands up and tries to storm out.
“I just remembered some urgent business, so I will excuse myself at this point!”
Finishing with that statement, he left the mansion without a moment’s delay.
At the same time, the words “He ran” pop up within the officials’ minds.
With that as a start, one official after the other left their seat.
“There was something I have to do as well. I’m off!”
“Sorry, I also have plans after this!”
“I can’t stay any longer, since my wife is in poor health.”
All guests end up leaving in the blink of an eye. The owner of the mansion, the official who was left behind alone, voiced out his excuse towards no one in particular,
“M-My mother at home is on the verge of death…”
The next morning, Souma had just finished the breakfast prepared by Shyemul and is gazing at the memo he took yesterday in preparation for their next lesson. Michena rushes into the room with her disheveled hair swaying all over the place.
“I-It’s a disaster, your Lordship!”
Guessing from Michena’s appearance that it’s no trivial matter, Souma looks at her seriously and asks,
“What’s going on?”
Thereupon Michena timidly said with a pale face,
“T-That is, not a single one of all the officials has come in this morning. Then, once I visited their homes after becoming worried—”
Michena hesitates to continue at that point.
“—their homes were completely empty without a single soul being there!”
For an instant Souma couldn’t comprehend what he had just been told. After staying in a daze for a short moment, Souma comes to his senses and strives to grasp the situation.
“You say completely empty, but weren’t there even any of their family members present?”
“No! In addition, their houses were in a mess, as if burglars had raided them!”
Due to the unexpected event, Souma looks at Shyemul’s face for a brief period.
“…What does that mean, Soma?”
“I don’t know! —Anyway, let’s check the whereabouts of the officials.”
Soon after Souma makes them investigate the officials’ whereabouts, a report from the gatekeepers stationed at the city’s entrance was brought in.
It says that the officials left the city together with their families on carriages when the city gates opened in the morning. The reason why the gatekeepers weren’t blamed for reporting that fact is due to Souma previously announcing that no one would be detained if they wanted to leave the city.
Souma also thinks that it can’t be helped if they say that they will leave the city due to being unable to obey him.
But it is odd for people who didn’t show any desire to leave until the previous day leaving all at the same time, as if it were planned. As expected, he felt suspicions toward their actions that seemed to be similar to a mass exodus.
“Shyemul! Contact Garam and the others. Have them hurry to arrest the escaping people!”
“Gotcha, I will!”
Receiving the message from Shyemul, Garam organized a pursuit unit and went over to the harpyian Pipi Totto Gigi.
“I’m sorry, but I’d like you to help us.”
“Acknowledged, Sir Garam!”
Pipi pushed out her sparse chest and readily consented to Garam’s request.
Several hours have already passed since the officials escaped the city, but that level of delay is no problem for harpyians who soar through the sky. To say nothing of the carriages boarded by the officials being fully loaded with luggage which significantly lowers their pace.
The eight harpyians, who took off from Bolnis, found the slowly traveling carriages of the officials in no time, and with them guiding the zoan pursuit unit, all of the officials were arrested.
Then, the captured officials were brought in front of Souma by the zoan. Having their hands tied behind their backs, the officials readily spilled the reason why they ran away without even a need for being interrogated.
Hearing the broad outline, Souma said half in surprise and half in disgust,
“In other words, believing that your embezzlement had been exposed, you ran away from the city?”
The officials were astir due to Souma’s way of speaking.
“You mean…by any chance…you didn’t realize?”
Acting as their representative, the Chief of Financial Affairs asks submissively.
Hearing that, Souma bobs his head once in consent and then answered quite indifferently,
“Yes, I did notice that the calculation was off, but I certainly didn’t expect that it had been due to embezzlement.”
“However, you realized that the calculations didn’t match up! That’s why it had to be embezzlement! But, you haven’t realized that!? N-No way! You shouldn’t be able to calculate without a calculation board! It’s obvious that you have investigated in advance!”
Realizing that they had fallen victim to an outrageous misunderstanding, the chief is confused and starts to talk about illogical things. Unable to understand why he’s so surprised, Souma honestly answers even while being overwhelmed by the chief’s menacing look,
“I only calculated it normally after looking at the account book though…”
“You can calculate…!?”
The chief’s jaw dropped due to losing strength from astonishment.
Just because he was told that Souma’s unable to read and write, the chief jumped to the hasty conclusion on his own accord that Souma isn’t capable of calculating either. However, without being told about it, it’s simply impossible to guess that Souma is a Drop Child from a different world and that he only doesn’t know the letters and numbers of this world.
Moreover, without being aware of something like that, Souma adds even more towards the chief,
“It’s not like you have to use equations or functions here, so it’s plenty as long as you can use addition and subtraction, right? The rest is to the extent of multiplication and division, I guess? But, even if you call that calculation, only that much is…”
“O-Only t-that m-m-much…!?”
The chief was already about to faint.
Even in this world, there is algebra and geometry. However, that was limited to a small fraction of scholars and wise men.
Among the officials, who use calculations for earning a living, at most addition and subtraction is reliably possible among the four basic arithmetic operations. Once it came to multiplication and division, it was commonplace for people to become very uncertain.
Just like multiplication was considered the education of nobility in the Heian period of Japan, multiplication and division were part of an advanced education very limited to just a small part of the nobles and government officials in this world.
And yet, due to Souma declaring such sophisticated education as “only,” the Chief of Financial Affairs ends up dumbfounded.
Nevertheless, the chief somehow musters his willpower and vehemently argues,
“B-But, even if you can calculate, without a calculation board…!”
Souma didn’t comprehend the meaning of the calculation board mentioned by the chief, but assessing that it probably belongs to the group of abacus, Souma answered,
“If it’s just this much, it will be sufficient if you have paper and a pen, no?”
Once again the chief ends up dumbfounded.
For him a calculation board was something indispensable when doing big calculations like those entered into the account book. Still, due to Souma stating it to be “sufficient if you have paper and a pen” and actually discovering miscalculations in a short time, the chief feels terrified.
“Something. that absurd… Calculating with just paper and pen; there’s no way…”
There was some reason as to why the chief rejected believing in it so much.
The reason is the difference between the numbers used by Souma and by the officials.
The numbers, which are used in this world, are no more than symbols representing the digits with 1, 10, 100… There are no symbols standing for 2 to 9. Hence, to express 2 to 9, it was a rule to repeatedly write the symbol in that number.
Let’s try writing the number 15468 using that method.
If a modern person uses the commonly-used arabic numerals, it’s a number they can represent with a mere five symbols. But, if you write it using | as 1, ＋ as 10, ＊ as 100, ＠ as 1,000 and § as 10,000, just like it’s used on the Seldeas Continent, it results in following:
It’s quite obvious with just a single look that it’s very abstruse.
Moreover, let’s divide that number by 4.
For the calculation you have to first grasp the whole number by counting how many numbers of each digit there are. The actual division after that is ridiculously troublesome.
However, if you express it with the Arabic number system, it’s no more than the simple division of 15468÷4. If it’s this, even an elementary schooler can solve that as long as they have some paper and a pen.
The Arabic numbers and his math knowledge at the level of a high school student, which Souma believes to be very obvious, were things that couldn’t avoid being shocking even to the officials whose occupation is to handle numbers on this Seldeas Continent.
However, Souma, who isn’t aware of that, became puzzled, unable to understand the officials’ surprise. Shyemul calls out to Souma who is in that state.
“So, what are we going to do with these fellows?”
The officials, who were in too much of a daze due to the surprise, only now remember that Souma is an influential person, who holds the authority over their lives in his hands, and tremble violently.
“Hmmm. —I wonder, what should I do with them?”
The troubled Souma revealed an ambiguous smile towards the officials.